Recording acoustic guitar is difficult! So how can you create a lush and wide acoustic guitar sound that will amaze your audience? And what if you have only one microphone? How to record an acoustic guitar with one mic in stereo? Let’s get creative!
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Acoustic guitars are notoriously difficult to record and to make an acoustic guitar recording sound good. Recording an acoustic guitar at home can be a challenge because often you need to do everything by yourself. I mean who has not struggled with how to record yourself playing acoustic guitar? Do you have the same problem when recording guitar? Well, then join the club!
Let’s find out how to mic an acoustic guitar for recording at home.
Gear From This Article
AKG Perception 170 Professional Instrumental Microphone
Rode NT2- Large Capsule Condenser
K&M König & Meyer Tripod Microphone Stand
AxcessAbles Microphone Spider Shock Mount
But why is acoustic guitar so hard to record?
- The acoustic guitar is a very dynamic instrument
- Like many acoustic instruments, the acoustic guitar has complex pattern frequencies
- The mic position can differ from guitar to guitar
- Your guitar recording can easily sound too boomy or bass-heavy
- You need good room acoustics for recording
- The acoustic guitar can make many squeaky noises while recording
When you only have one condenser mic for recording guitar like the Rode-NT2a, then you would think that you can only record your guitar in mono. But that’s not true. You can create a ‘false’ stereo effect by recording your guitar multiple times in multiple different mic positions. So who says recording in stereo with one mic is not possible?
Video Tutorial: How To Record Acoustic Guitars In Stereo, Even If You Have Only 1 Mic
If you want to see all the recording techniques and recording tips for how to record acoustic guitar with one mic, then check out my tutorial on YouTube. Here I show all the things that you need to keep in mind when making a home recording in a room or bedroom with bad room reverb. Or when you are recording your acoustic guitar in stereo with only one mic. For more tutorials on music production check out my YouTube playlist or articles.
If you want to read the video transcript see below at the end of this article.
The Best Microphones For Recording Acoustic Guitar
When you want to record your acoustic guitar, then preferably you want to have a pair of small diaphragm condenser microphones. For example these AKG P 170 small diaphragm condensers. They are not that expensive and I really think that these AKG P170 are the best budget acoustic guitar mic. And they perform great.
But what if you want to start recording acoustic guitars with a condenser mic, but you don’t have a stereo pair? In that case, any large diaphragm condenser mic will do. My personal favourite large diaphragm condenser mic for recording guitar is the Rode NT2-A. I originally bought it as a vocal mic, but it is also very suitable for recording your acoustic guitar.
Create A Stereo Guitar Effect With One Mic
So how to record acoustic guitar with one mic in stereo? Well, we will need to cheat a little bit. because as you now know, a true stereo recording will not be possible with only one Rode NT2-A or whatever mic you have at home.
What you need to do is perform your acoustic guitar part twice and record it twice. But when you record your guitar, you will use a different mic position for each part. What that means, is that you will have two separate guitar tracks that were played and recorded separately in different positions. Below I will show you how to mic an acoustic guitar so that you can apply this technique.
In this case, I want to record a brighter sound and a warmer and fuller sound. And during mixing, I will pan these two tracks left and right, and also use different EQ on them.
The Importance Of Room Acoustics
Before you start recording please read this! I cannot emphasize enough how important the room is in which you record your music. This does not only go for guitar recordings. If you don’t have a room that is specially designed or built for recording music, then most likely you want to have as little room reverb as possible. You want to treat your room with acoustic panels that will absorb some sound. This will reduce the ugly echo and other awkward sounds from your room leaking into your acoustic guitar recording.
If you cannot make any acoustic panels by yourself and you don’t have money to buy some. Then I advise you to improvise a bit. Here are some tips for getting a cleaner recording in your bedroom or recording room:
- Record in front of thick curtains
- Put up a mattress against the wall
- record in front of a full wardrobe closet.
Home Recording: How Not to Record Your Guitar In Your Room
What should you avoid when you record your acoustic guitar?
- Don’t record close to a wall
- Don’t record close to any other reflecting surfaces
- Don’t put the mic in front of the sound hole.
- Limit any other noisy sound sources
The lucky thing is when you have a condenser mic, that it has a cardioid pickup pattern, this pattern is less sensitive to sounds coming back the back side of the mic. So if you have an untreated wall or annoying sound source that you cannot block, then point the back of the mic to the wall or noise source.
Microphone Technique for Recording a Bright Acoustic Guitar Sound
When you want to record a bright acoustic guitar track, then with your microphone technique you want to focus on the neck area of the guitar. Especially around the 12th fret. Just keep in mind that you keep the microphone off-axis to the sound hole. Otherwise, it will sound boomy. The closer you get to the guitar, the more you will zoom in on a certain sound area. When you do this too much, the guitar might sound too thin and strange.
Recording Warm Acoustic Guitar Sounds
Now for our second acoustic guitar track, I want some fuller and warmer guitar sounds. I am going to focus my mic position on the bridge. This will result in a warmer and more muffled sound. And remember, if you put the microphone a little bit further away, then you get a more complete and true sound picture of your guitar.
How to EQ and Pan Your Acoustic Guitar Recording
After you edit your guitar recordings and have chosen the best takes, it is time to start mixing the guitar. To create a stereo picture, you want to pan the guitar tracks apart. So one guitar track to the left and the other one to the right. You can hard pan them, which means 100%, or do it more subtly around 50% or so.
This panning of the guitars will create a stereo spread and separation between the two acoustic guitar tracks. Now with your EQ you can emphasize the differences between both acoustic guitar tracks. You can add a high shelf or a low pass filter to your warmer guitar track. And you can add a high pass or low shelf to your brighter guitar track.
An Acoustic Guitar Recording Example
If you have limited gear and no personal assistant probably, like me, you struggle with the situation of how to record yourself playing acoustic guitar. And also how to get an amazing sound doing it. I could not do a regular stereo setup at the time. So I had to be creative while recording guitar in stereo with only one mic.
For my music project Facing Mountains, I used exactly this technique for recording acoustic guitar. On my track Summertime, I worked on how to record acoustic guitar with one mic in stereo by using two separate mic positions. Both of the tracks were recorded with my handy all-round Rode NT2-A Mic.
Here I used the technique to make my arrangement and introduction more interesting. The track starts with a brighter and thinner acoustic guitar recording. Later when the warmer guitar recording comes in the stereo picture is complete and the full warm sound of the song is set.
You can listen to the final results below.
[bandcamp width=350 height=442 track=628820374 size=large bgcol=ffffff linkcol=0687f5 tracklist=false]
Why Is A Condenser Mic The Best Acoustic Guitar Mic?
When it comes to how to record guitar in stereo, condenser microphones are the best choice for recording acoustic guitar. They are more sensitive and can capture higher frequencies. Everything sounds much clearer.
The sound recorded by a condenser microphone, especially when it is used to record an acoustic guitar, is accurate, detailed and transparent. As you know the acoustic guitar can be a very tricky instrument to record. So the key is to buy not just the most expensive microphone, but the most suitable for your budget and needs. Not all microphones are born the same, and the acoustic guitar has some unique and very special sonic characteristics that respond better to some mics than others.
Condenser microphones have a wide frequency response that can easily capture an acoustic’s frequency range.
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So hopefully now you see and can hear that it is not necessary to have many fancy and expensive microphones for recording a great acoustic guitar track at your home studio or in your bedroom. So the best acoustic guitar mic can be a relatively cheap one! And you can even create a stereo effect when you know how to record acoustic guitar with one mic by recording the same guitar part, but from multiple microphone angles.
Here is a recap of why is it difficult to record acoustic guitars and how can you manage them:
- Room Acoustics: The acoustic properties of the room where you’re recording your guitar can really affect the sound. Rooms with hard surfaces create many echoes and unwanted reverb that gets picked up by the microphone. This will make your recording muddy and awkward sounding. Solution: Acoustic panels, thick curtains, mattresses or anything that absorbs sound.
- Microphone Placement: Finding the right spot to place the microphone is crucial. If the microphone is too close to the guitar, you will hear too many finger noises and fret sounds also, you zoom in on a small part of the acoustic picture. If it’s too far, you might lose the warmth and detail of the guitar’s sound. Solution: think about what your goal is. Need detail? Record closer. Need a more complete sound? Place the mic a bit further. Just remember: Never place the mic in front of the sound hole!
- External Noise & Handling Movement: Condensor microphones are sensitive and pick up background noises like footsteps, doors creaking, street noises or other people talking. But also any movement of the musician and other unwanted noises will be recorded. Solution: Record during the early or late hours of the day when there is less outside activity. Wear clothes that don’t make noise and remove any jewellery.
- Recording/gain Level: Acoustic guitars have a wide dynamic range – This means they can go from quiet to loud very abruptly. If the recording level is set too high, the loud parts will distort or clip. But if it’s set too low, the quiet parts might get lost in the background noise.
- Microphone Type: Different microphones have different characteristics. Some might capture more of the high frequencies (treble), while others might emphasize the mid or low frequencies. Choosing the right microphone type for the acoustic guitar’s sound is important.
Because of the list above, recording acoustic guitars requires careful consideration. You need to think about factors like room acoustics, microphone choice, placement, and controlling background noise.
One cheap guitar, one guitar player, and one mic. How to record your acoustic guitar at home with only one mic and still make it sound great. That is the question!
I find that recording acoustic guitar properly is precise work and can be very difficult. Especially if you’re the one that is playing and recording it. In this tutorial, I’ll show you a recording technique that you can use to record your guitar and make it sound as if it is in stereo. By using different mic positions and by recording overdubs.
When recording an acoustic guitar preferably you want to have a pair of small condenser mics like these AKG P 170 small diaphragm condensers. Sound and quality wise they’re an absolute bang for your buck!
But what if you only have one microphone? Then there’s nothing to choose!
To create a stereo-like effect, I need to record my guitar part twice. And each time I play it, the mic needs to be in a different position. My mic of choice to is the Rode NT2-A. I bought this as a vocal mic but it also performs well as an all-round mic to record instruments. And in this case my cheap acoustic guitar.
One thing that is extremely important, and I’m definitely not exaggerating this, is your room acoustics.
What you don’t want is to have bad room reverb in your guitar recording, because it will seriously degrade the sound. It will sound amateur. So whenever possible try to treat your room with acoustic treatment. You can easily and for relatively cheap make these panels by yourself. It’s worth the effort and money, I guarantee it!
If you don’t have time or money then try to record in a spot where you’ll have as less as possible room reverb. So for example in front of thick curtains, or maybe in front of a closet with many clothes inside, or maybe you can put a mattress against the wall. Anything that will absorb at least a little bit of sound.
The next thing that you need to keep in mind is that you don’t record too close to a wall or any other surface that might reflect the sound. And the great thing about condenser mics with a cardioid pickup pattern is, is that they are less sensitive to sounds from the rear area of the mic. So when you only have one treated wall for example, sit in front of the wall so that the back of the mic will face the untreated area. This will at least lower the echo coming from the untreated wall or surface.
When recording guitar in stereo you will have two signals from two separate mics. They will sound different, but how different depends on the recording technique or mic placement. I want to mimic this sound by recording one take where I’m focusing on the brighter part of the guitar and one take where I’m focusing on the warm and more muffled sound of the guitar.
When you record the brighter part of the guitar you want to either aim toward the 12th fret. Or you can also record with a small diaphragm condenser pointed below to where the neck meets the body. Just avoid recording directly above the sound hole, because your recording will be way too boomy and bass heavy.
After recording enough takes with this mic position now I want to zoom out and I want to capture the warmer and a little bit more distant sound. For this you want the mic to point towards the bridge area. The closer you get, the more you will zoom in on the sound. If there is a bit of a distance then you get a more complete and natural picture of the instrument or the area that you want to catch.
If you want to learn basically anything that you need to know for your home studio recordings, then I recommend that you read this book. Because this is an absolute treasure. It’s ‘Recording Secrets For The Small Studio’ by Mike Senior. It’s an absolute must to read this!
Now after recording of course you need to choose your best takes. And be sure that you pan the guitars right and left. With your EQ you might want to emphasize the difference between the brighter and the warmer sounding track. And you can do this by using a low pass filter and a high pass filter, or any low and high shelves can work as well.
I used exactly this in my recent song Summertime for my music project Facing Mountains. Here I use the technique from this video and I panned them and I used the EQ to emphasize the differences between the two signals. For an intro effect, the song starts with the brighter and less bass-heavy guitar track. And when the warm full track joins in, we have this nice stereo effect on which the whole song progresses and starts to build.
Summertime is out now so if you’re curious about how this technique sounds and if you want to support the channel, then download the song from my Bandcamp. Or play it on any other streaming platform.
Share this tip and video with any of your other music friends that want to record guitars, and of course don’t forget to like and subscribe. Stay inspired, stay creative, and for now…
See you next time!